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Meet Our Club: Severnside Sub-Aqua Club

European DTA Team

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Want to join a dive club? In this new series, we take a look at grassroots diving and find out what’s happening on the club scene in the UK and around the world…


What is the name of your club?

Severnside Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364)

Where is your club based?

We are based in central Bristol in the South West of England.

Club affiliations (i.e. BSAC, PADI, SAA, etc.)

We are a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364). However, we have members with qualifications from various training agencies including commercial divers and PADI-qualified instructors. All of our training offered is in accordance with the BSAC Diver Training Programme but any qualified divers are more than welcome do dive with us within the limits of their existing qualifications.

Where and when do you meet?

We have our own dedicated clubhouse and boat store in the heart of Bristol’s historic docklands which is always open to members and guests from around 8 pm to 10 pm every Monday (except Bank Holidays). We also meet earlier for meetings or training and have exclusive use of a nearby private heated swimming pool for training and skills practice every Monday night from 7.30 pm to 9 pm.

In between our weekly meetings we also have mid-week and weekend training sessions as well as a packed schedule of social events including walking and hiking trips, local food and drink festivals, theatre and music gig nights, cultural events, and regular ‘Friday Night Shout’ social occasions at one or more local pubs.

How do you respond to the challenge of recruiting new members?

We are one of the largest and most active dive clubs in the South West currently with around 140 members. We are able to offer a full range of BSAC training courses from absolute beginner to advanced diver and even instructor training support and we make extensive use of social media and online tools for promotion and marketing using promotional materials provided by the BSAC.

One of our favourite ways to reach potential new members has been to donate a free ‘try dive experience’ voucher to local charities for fundraising raffles and prize draws. It costs us nothing since we have the kit and our pool available and it helps to raise vital funds for worthy local causes. At the same time, our volunteer instructors love to introduce new people to the fantastic sport of diving and we make sure that they always leave with a DVD and a free magazine with details about our training courses on offer.

Otherwise, many of our new members are introduced to us by word-of-mouth for friends, family, or colleagues. It also helps that we have such great facilities and a full and active year-round diving programme which makes us attractive to already qualified-divers.

What facilities and resources does the club use/have?

Each week we have exclusive use of a heated indoor swimming pool and our dedicated clubhouse has its own classroom, a large meeting room, and a fully-equipped workshop as well as a shower room, a disabled access toilet, and kitchen facilities. We have free wi-fi access for members, two training PCs with fixed digital projectors, a portable projector, a sound system, and a full library of resources, research and training materials, annual tide times, admiralty charts, and diving tables.

The clubhouse is also used to store our two Tornado and Humber RIBs which are kept on towable trailers available for any suitably-qualified members to use for diving and training. These have been fully-equipped with echo-sounders, marine GPS, and fixed radios and have been extensively modified for diving with externally-mounted stores for emergency equipment, racking for cylinders, and chandlery boxes full of shot weights, buoy lines and signal-pills, etc.

Our diving equipment includes ten complete sets of SCUBA kit available for trainee and members’ use with BCs in a range of sizes as well as cylinders from 5 ltrs up to 10 ltrs. We also have three emergency O2 kits as well as various first aid kits and a range of resusci anne manikins which we also use to run regular first aid and rescue/incident response training courses.

Lastly, we have our own breathing air compressors and gas blending plant including a large nitrox bank and full trimix blending facilities. This means that we are able to offer ‘premixed’ nitrox of less than 40% O2 for members to safely fill non-O2 cleaned cylinders for recreational diving.

What sort of diving do you do, and where?

We dive all around the UK from our two club RIBs and members’ own boats, as well as shore dives and charter boat bookings. Most frequently we dive along the South coast in Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall. However, we will venture as far out as the Skomer marine reserve in West Wales, Lundy Island and the Isles of Scilly. In the last few years we have even traveled to Lymington and the Isle of Wight, Ireland, the Farne Islands, and the Isle of Skye and Loch Duich in Scotland.

We are also lucky to have three great inland diving sites within easy driving distance at Vobster Quay in Somerset, Cromhall Quarry in South Gloucestershire, and the National Diving and Activity Centre in Monmouthshire.

Do you organise any club trips abroad, and if so, where?

We have several club trips abroad every year normally, including at least one week-long liveaboard trip (usually to the Red Sea).  In the last few years our club members have also been to Indonesia, the Philippines, Truk Lagoon, Tobago, France, Spain and the Canary Islands, as well as land-based trips to Egypt and Jordan. Already for 2018 we have trips booked to the Maldives and the Southern Red Sea. We even have an annual ski trip which for the last few years has been to various resorts around the French Alps!

Does your club have any special interests such as conservation, special projects, etc?

We are very keen on supporting conservation and encouraging a culture of sustainable behaviours amongst our members. We have recently put in place an Environmental and Sustainability Policy providing that we will appoint an Environmental and Sustainability Champion each year who will be responsible for ensuring that we work towards minimising the environmental impact of any of our activities. Car sharing is arranged wherever possible and we have bike storage and shower facilities at our club to encourage our members to cycle to our training and meetings.

We have also worked closely with the UK charity the Marine Conservation Society to raise money and awareness in support of their various environmental campaigns. We have recently run a ‘Marine Life Appreciation’ skill development course as well as a ‘SeaSearch UK’ observer course with members volunteering undertake marine life and habitat surveys. Our members are also involved in regular litter picking campaigns including the annual #GreatBritishBeachClean and monthly ‘Clean Up Bristol Harbour’ events.

Another of our major interests over the last few years has been our ‘Adopt-a-Wreck’ project. Under the scheme organised by the Nautical Archaeology Society, we have unofficially ‘adopted’ the wreck of the SS Bayginato two miles off the Dorset coast in Lyme Bay. As part of the project we have organised a ‘Wreck Appreciation’ skill development course as well as a series of survey dives on the wreck site and a programme of research into the history of the wreck, her crew, and the story behind her loss to enemy action during WWI on 18 March 1918.

Does your club have any claims to fame or any particularly interesting stories… or members?

Our ‘Adopt-a-Wreck’ project has attracted a lot of press interest during the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Great War.  After winning the BSAC’s inaugural ‘Wreck Award’, some of our members were invited onto the big red sofa to talk about the project on BBC’s six o’clock news. This gave the club the opportunity to promote SCUBA diving as well as to talk about the rich heritage of the UK’s maritime history just under the surface of the water along our coastlines. This was recognised by the Sports + Recreation Alliance who awarded the club the award for ‘Most Innovative Project’ presented by HRH Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex! Most recently, we were awarded the Nautical Archaeology Society’s ‘Adopted Wreck Project Award’, presented to TV archaeologist Dr Phil Harding, and commended for our efforts to promote the sport by the BSAC’s Heinke Trophy awards panel.

What are the club’s plans for the future?

This year we will be reaching the culmination of our ‘Adopt-a-Wreck’ project by marking the centenary of the sinking of the SS Baygitano. We are planning to commemorate the sacrifice and dedication of all those merchant navy seaman who served in the Great War by laying a reef on the wreck site diving a memorial dive on Sunday 18 March 2018.

A number of our members have also recently completed the BSAC’s ‘Diving for All’ instructor course to learn how to adapt their training procedures to help and support people with disabilities. We are planning to integrate as many of the skills and teaching techniques taught on that course into our own diver training programme to ensure that we are as welcoming and accessible as we can be to potential new members.

Finally, we are hoping to develop our outreach programme offering discounted ‘try dive’ evenings to local scouts and other other community and youth groups. That way we know that there will always be ‘plenty more divers in the sea!’

Where can people find out more about your club?

The best way to find out more about the club would be to come and see us at the Cambria Yard, Avon Crescent, Bristol, England BS1 6XQ on a Monday night (except Bank Holidays) between 9 and 10 pm!  But, if readers want to find out a bit more in advance, then they can also contact us by email, look us up online, or visit our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Finally… if you could sum up your club in just one sentence, what would it be?

Fun, family-friendly, welcoming, and flying the A-flag for the British Sub-Aqua Club!

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Western Ecology Tour Expedition Report: Stats & Scotland

Donovan Lewis

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Expedition Overview

During June 2021 a team of us Photographers, Filmmakers, Scientists and Divers took part in the Western Ecology Tour, an expedition that involved diving some of ‘The Best’ of the West Coast of the UK. The Expedition took place between the 17th and 29th of June, and we traveled to 3 key locations throughout the UK. The expedition started out in the Lochs of Scotland and finished along the Pembrokeshire coastline.

The expedition was led by Andy Clark of ATND Services and @fancy_a_brew_podcast. He sought out talent, sponsors, and expertise to aid him in achieving the goals he had planned for the expedition.

The expedition had three main aims; To support scientists who are working to better understand and protect our coastlines, wildlife, and ecosystems, to tell the unseen stories of our hidden coastline, and to promote sustainable adventures.

The expedition had a number of sponsors with all of them supplying equipment to the WET Team, these sponsors included Northern Diver who supplied Cylinders and Dive Lights and a Northern Diver bags for the Crews equipment, Analox who supplied a Nitrox Analyser, Dryrobe who supplied Dry Robes to members of the WET Team, GearAid supplied Cleaning and Repair equipment, Stream2Sea Supplied Alcohol Hand Sanitiser, Neptunic supplied T-Shirts and Rash Vests and Modena Journals supplied Journals to each member of the WET Team to make notes throughout the expedition.

Other sponsors included OThree who donated an array of items for Raffle Prizes and Finisterre who donated a £150 Voucher also for a raffle prize.

A prize raffle was run leading up to the trip, this raised £2,005 with £397 being given to each of the 3 projects that were supported, and the rest going towards supporting the team throughout the expedition. To reduce costs and minimise the teams carbon footprint, we lived life as simply as we could, which we did by staying at campsites.

In total the team collectively covered around 12,500 miles, with travelling taking between 5 – 10 hours to travel between each area of work.

Expedition Stats

  • Collective Miles driven – 12,500
  • Dive Sites Visited – 12
  • Max dive time – 74 Minutes
  • Collective Total Dive Time – 30.7 Hours / 1,847 Minutes
  • Max Depth Reached during Expedition – 34 Metres
  • Camp sites visited – 3
  • Collective Midge Bites (Scotland) – Unknown (Possibly Hundreds)
  • Largest Item of Pollution removed – Oil Drums
  • Projects Supported – 3
  • Total money raised during fundraiser – £2,005
  • Money raised for each charity – £397

Scotland

In Scotland, our team were supporting Shark & Skate Citizen Science Scotland, with Chris Richard and Dr Lauren Smith. Chris and Lauren are working alongside fisherman and the local community to better understand the movements of the Flapper Skate, an animal that was once in abundance, hence why it used to be called the Common Skate, but it is now classed as a Critically Endangered Species. Chris & Lauren have managed to identify an egg laying site of the Flapper Skate but are unsure of how many animals are using the site and with the surrounding area being used for fishing, it puts the site at risk. Thankfully the specific site is closed to fishing and even diving, Chris & Lauren are working to try and better understand the Skates and learn more about their movements as this will help them place better protections on not just the site itself, but also the routes the Skates are using in and out of the site.

The one thing they mentioned is that the local community are an almost untapped source of local knowledge and resources. Due to the rarity of Flapper Skates Chris and Lauren have put together a Facebook page where local divers, walkers and nature enthusiasts can report their sightings of Flapper Skates and other Shark & Ray species.

We left from Andy’s house in Wigan for around 10:30am and it took us around 10 hours to travel up and arrive at The Wee Campsite which is located on the shores of Loch Carron. As soon as we arrived, we were mobbed by thousands of Highland Midges which resulted in some members of the team having between 10 – 100 midge bites on a single arm. We were warned about this before heading up but we weren’t expecting the sheer amount of them.

The campsite was however situated amongst some of the most breath-taking landscapes and vistas that the UK has to offer. Once we had all set up camp and eaten, it was time to set up our cameras and make sure that we were packed and ready to set off for 9am the next morning.

The First day included diving the shores of Loch Duich with the first Dive Site being outside the Ratagan Youth Hostel, this had a gentle sloping seabed with a muddy bottom. Here lies a huge amount of Short-Clawed Squat Lobster, Brittle Stars, Harbour Crabs and Jellyfish. This dive was unbelievable in terms of the sheer amount of life and is a Macro Photographers dream with life that was not only in high abundance but were also confident allowing you to truly take your time in getting the shot.

The second Dive Site is known by the unfortunate name of the Rubbish Dump, this dive site sits below a small lay by that is known for dumping rubbish, and when you go underwater you see why. The wall was covered in rubbish that ranged from plates, fishing line, car tyres, and even more shocking, was the sheer amount of animal remains with skulls and bags of bones littering the seabed. Even with this sheer amount of waste present at the site, there was life clinging to the debris, from crabs who made makeshift homes beneath the rubbish, Lauren even found a Mermaids Purse that had been wrapped around discarded fishing line but after Lauren did a quick check, she concluded that the egg wasn’t hindered and rather than try and move it and damage the egg she decided to leave it to develop.

After the dive at the Rubbish Dump, Chris spotted what was first believed to be an Otter but as a surprise sighting it turned out to be an invasive American Mink who swam past the team with what was believed to be a Rockling in its mouth, only a few shots were able to be taken before it darted under some rocks.

The final Dive site of the first day is known as School Bay, this is once again a dive site with a muddy bottom. The mission on this dive was to find and photograph a Fireworks Anemone and Sea Pens. The dive site is essentially a bowl that drops to around 25 metres. Chris advised us to follow the slope down into the Bowl at a depth of 20-25 Metres and here we found huge amounts of life from Sea Pens, Sea Whips, Long-Spined Sea Scorpion and of course we found Fireworks Anemone. This site was being swept by a gentle current which was shown by how many filter feeding animals that were present here.

The only problems that we ran into on this site, was entry and exit from the water, as it was over a very rocky beach, followed by shallow areas with thick algae, so extra care was taken when walking and swimming with cameras.

After day one the team returned to the campsite and settled down, after eating and preparing cameras for the second day, to dive briefings for day 2 which were delivered by Chris and Lauren.

Day two in Scotland was a day of drift dives which first lead the team up to Conservation Bay a short drive from the campsite and a short walk down a slope to a gentle shore entry. The dive started on shallow kelp bed, but with a short swim out however had us swimming out into a gentle drift dive, the walls here were covered in Dead Man’s Fingers, Kelp and Anemones. Ollie managed to get some incredible footage here of the walls and life that clung in the gentle drift.

The second dive was another short drive to Castle Bay, a beautiful dive site which had Strome Castle overlooking the bay that we were diving in. The current on this dive was much faster, however manageable when we were trying to capture imagery and footage of the site. The walls on this site were once again adorned with Dead Man’s Fingers, Anemones, and Common Urchins, however the drift was fast enough that it lasted for around 20 minutes before slowing in much slower water. The wall at this point flattened out and became a gentle sandy floor with huge amounts of flatfish, decorator Crabs, Moon Jellyfish and Nudibranchs. This area alone would have constituted a dive all on its own due to the abundance of life that was present.

The final dive of day two was a quiet one with only two members of our team going down for this one, as other members of us went off to photograph the site from above water and conduct drone shots for the Expedition film that is currently in production. It was Chris and Ross who decided to get in for the final dive of the Scottish leg and they dived on a huge Maerl bed, Maerl is a hard Seaweed that forms huge carpets on the seabed and creates a diverse habitat for other wildlife, they reported back after the dive after seeing Nudibranchs, Butterfish and Flame Shells amongst the Maerl beds. Scotland was finished off with Chris and Lauren giving their interviews about what they do at Shark & Skate Citizen Science Scotland, along with some time to take images of some of the expedition’s sponsors.

After the final dive we spent an hour or so filming and taking photographs of expedition sponsors, and the general scenery before heading back to the campsite for the evening. The evening was spent with us chatting about the amazing diving we’d had during the Scottish leg and spoke about the next stop on Expedition WET’s itinerary, this was of course beautiful North Wales.

Tune in for the next entry of Expedition WET’s Trip report where I’ll be collaborating with Co-Scubaverse blogger Jake Davies, where we’ll be talking about Project Seagrass and about what the team saw and achieved during this amazing leg of the journey.

Header Image: WET Team in Neptunic gear. Photo Credit – Hannah Rose Milanković

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Wining and Diving – Gozo

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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The Wining and Diving series sees Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown embark on a tour to tickle the taste buds as well as to discover amazing dive sites in wine-making regions around the world. Some of the best wines are influenced by sea breezes and a coastal climate, allowing two of Nick and Caroline’s passions to be combined into one epic journey.

**Please note, Nick and Caroline are not encouraging drinking before diving! The two activities are kept well apart on each of these trips.


Gozo is one of the most popular diving destinations for British divers, offering stunning underwater scenic dives along with plenty of wreck diving. Add to this the sunshine, professional dive centres and the relatively short flight and it is a perfect short-haul getaway.

We went for a long weekend dive conference and had heard that there was also an excellent vineyard on the island for us to try out on our non-diving day before flying home – perfect! With only two days of diving on the itinerary we wanted to pack in a much as we could, but the weather and the fact that Caroline had fallen down the stairs the week before and was struggling to walk very far – we needed help and the team at Calypso Divers really went out of their way to accommodate us, so rather that the usual shore diving the island has to offer, we started out visiting some of the most popular dives by boat.

Cathedral Rock and the Blue Hole showed off the dramatic seascape that is a feature of Gozo, with cliffs towering up out of the sea, caves and caverns where the power of the waves has created an underwater playground for divers. We visit Crocodile rock to see the schools of barracuda and to hunt for nudibranchs.

Our final dive saw us visit the wreck of the MV Karwela. This wreck is famous for its staircase that divers can descend and makes for an excellent photo opportunity.

Gozo is also well worth exploring top-side, with beautiful beaches, plenty of history and some lovely places to stop, relax and enjoy the food and drink of the region. We visit the family-owned Tal-Massar winery which hosts twice-weekly tours for groups, taking guests through the winery’s private estate and allowing them to enjoy the spectacular, unspoiled surroundings.

Tours also include a wine tasting featuring at least four different wines, plus traditional Gozo bread and cheese, sundried tomatoes and cold pressed olive oil. It was all delicious!


Links

  • For more information about Frogfish Photography click here.
  • For information about visiting Malta and Gozo click here.
  • For details on the dive centre we dived with click here.
  • For more information about the wine we sampled: Tal-Massar Winery
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